Last year, on Sunday, December 8, I did something I had never done before during the Christmas season. I attended a service for St. Lucia Day. It was held before sunrise so the path to the old church building was lit with candles to guide the participants.
This small church was built in the 1800s and originally served a Swedish community. There was no plumbing, electricity, or heat. The wooden pews were cold, and hard to sit on during the service. However, the building was pretty with candlelight inside and out—a simple building, not fancy, but nice.
The service lasted only half an hour, which was shorter than I expected; and it was conducted entirely in Swedish, a language I don’t know. Thankfully, one person did introductions in English and provided an English translation of the pastor’s sermon. We were also provided with candles so we could read our bulletins in the dark church. However, songs were printed in Swedish so—even with the light—the candlelight didn’t help much. But it was interesting that such a small light could make a noticeable difference in being able to see. It made me wonder, what difference can my life make as a light in the darkness? Jesus is the Light of the World, yet he called his disciples lights; how can we let our lives– our lights–shine into the darkness?
Sitting in the pew also made me wonder about the past. How would congregants in the 1800s have felt coming to church? Who had been sitting in these same pews 150 or more years ago? Did they have a way to keep warm? Would they have a service in their native language, or was it in a language they couldn’t understand? What did Christmas mean to the people who sat in the same pews all those years before?
These questions ran through my mind as I sat and listened to the Swedish sermon. I wondered what else history could teach me. I felt as though I was more connected to the past sitting there. I learned to be grateful for what I have—things I take for granted—like heat and lights. The simple service made me think.
In addition, it made me slow down enough to remember what’s important. It isn’t the presents, parties, or events—the busyness at Christmas time. It’s the actual birth of Jesus, the fact that God sent His son to reconcile us to himself. That’s what is important. How often do I get caught up in all the activity of this season and lose sight of what really matters? Doing something different, attending the St. Lucia Day service, made me remember what’s important. I’m grateful for the experience. What’s something different you can do to remember the true meaning of Christmas?
Rachel Roen enjoys learning, traveling, and spending time with friends. She recently completed her master’s degree in strategic leadership and is looking forward to the next adventure God has in store.